Some of you know that when I was younger I was interested in cooking and even spent a year in a French/California cuisine restaurant on College Ave in Oakland originally as a sous chef and then the chef as a replacement for the guy who stormed out after an argument with the owner. I bounced around prior to that doing some catering gigs and what not…anyway although I was drawn into the tech industry I haven’t lost my love of food and cooking. After spending a lot of time on the road, most recently at Blackhat in Vegas, I continually run into a lot of geeks who share my love for fine dining but are also less than motivated to do a lot of work about it, maybe a bit lazy – well at least I have an excuse, you see as a young man I was bitten by a radioactive sloth and now possess the relaxation skills of 10 men. Anyway I thought I would share some healthy cuisine for the lazy geek, all these recipes can be whipped up faster than you can find a 0-day, fuzz Safari or say “100% undetectable? what the $*@& I don’t think so!” this week’s episode will be Fun with Tomatoes.
Heirloom Tomato Salad
Heirloom tomatoes are in season from July to September in California and they are absolutely delicious without much fanfare. Juicy and bursting with a natural sweetness and less acidity than traditional tomatoes, Heirlooms are wonderful on their own and perfect for the lazy geek looking to add a little gourmet to the menu.
What to look for. First off Heirlooms look funny, they will be bumpy and large and have funny slits. Basically they are what tomatoes were supposed to be before we bred the crap out of them looking for perfectly round ruby red things that lack flavor but look good in the grocery store. Don’t be afraid to pick the big funny shaped fruit up and give it a gentle squeeze, it should be firm but give a little indicating the juicy ripeness that awaits. They also come in a variety of colors; red, orange, yellow, green, striped, spotted and almost brownish – pick some different colors for a nice visual effect and remember that the eyes taste the food before it hits the lips…
Heirloom tomatoes sliced (roughly 1 per person depending on size)
Fresh Basil (Hand torn is fine, if you chop basil don’t go nuts because basil bruises, just like my ego every time my kid beats me at video games)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the nicer the better)
Balsamic Vinegar (although you can find some really expensive balsamic Whole Foods brand 360 Organic Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is quite good)
Salt and Pepper to taste (too much salt and you kill the dish, remember when cooking you can always add more but it is difficult to take away what you added)
Toss the sliced tomatoes with the basil, drizzle on the oil, splash the vinegar, pinch of salt and pepper and serve. If you want to kick it up a notch you can add olives (like kalamata), feta cheese, bleu cheese, pine nuts, herbs, expensive salt variations such as sea salt with lavender – pretty much anything you want to add but heirlooms are beautiful on their own.
Variation #1 Caprese Salad
Place the sliced tomatoes on a plate, layer some basil, a slice of good quality, fresh buffalo mozzarella add olive oil and a blast of vinegar and you are good to Ciao Bella!
Variation #2 Ensalada Chilena
This is a traditional Chilean salad that goes very well with grilled meats. Toss some sliced tomatoes with cilantro, onions, a squeeze of lime or lemon, finally salt and pepper to taste. This recipe actually tastes better when the sliced tomatoes have been slightly manhandled and release juices that will make up the dressing
Slice tomatoes fairly thick, drizzle with olive oil and grill. When done add some parmesan cheese – goes great with fried eggs.
Sauteed Cheery Tomatoes
Heat butter and olive oil in a sautee pan, add a bunch of cheery tomatoes that have been stemmed, rinsed and dried. Raise the heat and cook the tomatoes until heated through, they need to be shaked and rolled around in the pan. Do not over cook or they get pretty mushy and then you have tomato sauce and not sauteed tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately
Oven Roasted Plum Tomatoes
Place a dozen or so plum tomatoes havled lengthwise on a foil lined baking sheet that has been oiled, drizzle tomatoes with olive oil lightly. The tomatoes should be in a single layer, cut side up. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for about 3 hours (ok this one will take a little time, but still very little effort) Transfer the tomatoes to a platter, garnish with basil or parsley and add a small touch of Parmesan
There are lots of things one can do with tomatoes as well, such as cherry tomato shooters with a basil infused foam, fried green tomatoes, tomato soup, stuffed tomatoes, tomato sauces, coulis, foams, and on and on – experiment and enjoy!